Chutni Devi: The Journey from Witch to Tigress

by Anshi Jindal from New Delhi in India

“Chutni Devi is an epitome of bravery, determination and courage”

In country like India, nine incarnations of goddess Durga are being worshipped to honor women's power. The other facet of the coin gives a horrific picture of women being considered “witches” for baseless reasons. One such example is the journey of a heroic woman, Chutni Devi, who left no stone unturned to eradicate such an evil practice. The 65-year-old resident of Birbasha village in Saraikela Kharsawan district of Jharkhand, India, Chutni Devi was condemned as a heretic. She is leading an example of self-belief and continuing the crusade against the oppression of women.

At the tender age of twelve, she got married. But soon after sixteen years of her marriage, a very appalling incident took place. In 1995 her life was completely altered when her brother-in-law’s daughter fell ill and people blamed her for the illness. They accused her of being a witch. According to her, witch-hunting today has become a very common act in the villages of India. Chutni Devi was also a victim of this act. Everyone assumed that she was a witch and so they offered her urine and other human excretory products to feed up on. They even made her roam all around the village semi-naked, shamelessly. After such unbearable deeds, she decided to escape her in-laws' house, along with her three children. She was successful in leaving their house, and after travelling a long distance, she started residing in her parents’ abode. She was also declared witch by the village Panchayat. The village people even called ‘ojhas’ or exorcists to treat her. After such mouth opening incidents, she decided to rescue other women who were also confronting this evil act.

Fortunately, she was able to reach out to the Association for Social and Human Awareness (ASHA), who were also working against witch-hunting in the villages, and each district was under her charge; she kept track and ensured that such a mishap did not take place. She even got support from local administration and the police for this noble work which she was doing with overwhelming determination. Chutni Devi’s daughters-in-law Sangeeta and Anjana Mahto are also part of this noble work. They keep a check on meetings so that there is no delay, in case Chutni Mahto was busy with other work in her organization. Whenever they find any woman being victim of this act, they reach that place without any hesitation and delay, along with their team to rescue the woman. At the rehabilitation center, all the facilities are provided to her. People who injure the women because of their belief in the superstition are punished.

Today this unimaginable step taken by her has saved the lives of more than 60 women. Her determination has proved that she is none other than a ‘tigress’. This organization has brought smiles to the faces of women who were once groaning with pain. The condition of the villagers of her village is that they think a hundred times before doing such an unacceptable act. This measure taken by her has made everyone believe that a woman is always a woman, not a witch. She has become famous, and today many people come to take her interview. She was awarded the fourth civilian award of India, the Padma Shree.

Chutni Mahto, who was once called a witch and was once prey to witchcraft, has proved the sanctity and purity of a woman which no one would have ever dared to do. She is the truest idol of bravery, determination and divinity. Women are known as incarnation of goddess, but proving them inauspicious is truly a sin. Today she has made every woman realize their power, strength and right to roam independently without any fear. Her startling efforts have made her name unforgettable in India.

Page created on 4/11/2021 1:50:13 PM

Last edited 4/13/2021 6:05:54 AM

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